The Security Council today welcomed the holding of provincial, or governate, elections in Iraq on 31 January, while the top United Nations envoy to the strife-torn country called the poll a solid foundation for further progress this year.
“The members of the Security Council commend and congratulate the people of Iraq for demonstrating their commitment to a peaceful and democratic political process,” Yukio Takasu of Japan, which holds the body’s presidency for February, said in a press statement.
He said Council members looked forward to the certification of election results by Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative in Iraq, told a news conference in New York, via video link, that provisional results would be announced by IHEC in the next few days, and the certified results should be released toward the end of the month.
The final results, he explained, await the examination of all complaints and the incorporation of the choices of special voters such as military troops, police officers, hospital patients and prison inmates. He commented, however, that provisional results tend to be close to the certified results in most cases.
Mr. de Mistura, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission in Iraq (UNAMI), said that the poll was an important test as the first elections of a year of elections, with possible elections and a referendum in the disputed city of Kirkuk and most likely national elections toward the end of the year.
“These elections were crucial, a little like the morning tells you a little bit how the day may be going weather-wise,” he said, noting that the signs were positive at this point.
“We are satisfied that, one – no violence, two – orderly and well-trained people, three – that they followed procedures and four – that 51 per cent [turnout] is quite a good situation,” he said of the polls, in which some 14,467 candidates vied for posts in 6,471 polling centres.
“It’s giving the feeling to the people that voting for parties and competing, even strongly – with a lot of political, verbal tension, but politically – is probably the best way for the future in Iraq,” he added.
He admitted that the 51 per cent turnout, compared to 58 per cent in the 2005 polls, was somewhat below what had been expected, but was about average for provincial elections
He explained that the first-time inclusion of a registration process, to lessen fraud, had probably dampened participation, while only 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had voted, despite measures to increase their numbers.
The real way to improve the figures in the future, he said, would be to simplify the voter lists, which were still based on old food coupon lists.
He said that even the participation of Sunnis, which seems low at 40 to 42 per cent, was quite positive when compared to their near-total rejection of the last polls, in which they had only a two per cent turnout.
Even in Mosul, people had been voting, he said, to show that they wanted to play the electoral power card. “Compared to two per cent, it is quite a substantial sign that they want to run their own future,” he stressed.